Judas’ grim transition holds valuable lesson

It is well known that Judas was the traitor who betrayed Jesus to the political-religious critics who hated him because he exposed their false and treacherous hearts. Jesus’ popularity with the people and his public confrontation of the hypocrisy of those who exalted themselves as God’s representatives became unbearable and embarrassing. Something had to be done about Jesus.

An illegal charge of some kind needed to be found or conceived to “nail” Jesus. It was Judas who began the process by volunteering to betray him, triggered by a kiss designed to identify him to the arresting thugs sent to cuff him.

Here is how Mark’s gospel records the events of betrayal: “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him … And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.’” — Mark 14:10, 11:43-44.

Judas has gone down in history as the one who sold Jesus out. What most of us have not considered is that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Judas loved Jesus.

He was with Jesus three years. He was given important leadership responsibilities within the band of disciples — he was the treasurer. He participated in Jesus’ ministry witnessing the multiplying of the loaves and fishes as he helped to hand them out to the crowd. We are told that on one occasion there were 5,000 men, not counting the women and children.

Judas saw Jesus heal the blind, the lame and the sick multiple times because he was there to assist.

But something happened to his heart along the way. At one time in his life, he loved being with Jesus and doing life with Jesus. Then he became distracted, perhaps by the fame and perhaps also by the attraction of potential wealth and political power.

The breaking point came when Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14) and a woman of sinful repute entered uninvited and broke an alabaster flask of expensive oil and began anointing Jesus with it. It could have been sold for a great amount of money. It must have seemed to be such a waste to Judas, who soon after the incident goes and offers himself as the betrayer to set Jesus up to be arrested.

Matthew’s gospel seems to suggest that Judas never thought his action would get Jesus killed (Matthew 27:3f). When Jesus was condemned to die, Judas changed his mind, returned the betrayal money and confessed that he had sinned by betraying innocent blood. Judas’ words and reaction to the subterfuge of the religious council exposed how he felt about Jesus deep in his heart.

Whatever made him lose heart with the mission and become a part of the plot to end Jesus’ unselfish ministry, only the heart of Judas knows. Because in the end he was so sorry for what he had done that he ended his life. The “kiss of death” that he gave to Jesus resulted in the “kiss of death” for himself.

You and I need to be cautious and careful about what we “kiss” in this worldly culture. The kiss of Judas was the kiss of betraying everything that was good and worthy of a person’s life, devotion and worship. So many people are kissing false values, false religion and worldly aims in life that will betray them. It is a betraying kiss of the true, biblical values that Jesus represented and taught.

Righteous principles and practices never have an expiration date. What we may kiss could be the kiss of death for us eternally

The psalmist pens these powerful words in Psalm 2:12: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Dave Woods is senior minister of Park Chapel Christian Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.